Cristiano Ronaldo has reportedly failed a Covid-19 test and will be denied a reunion with Lionel Messi in the Champions League.
The Juventus forward has been out of action since testing positive for coronavirus on Portugal duty earlier this month.
And the former Manchester United and Real Madrid star will be unavailable to renew his on-field rivalry with Messi’s Barcelona in the biggest clash of the tournament this season, according to reports in Italy.
The Portuguese and the Argentine have won 11 of the last 12 Ballons d’Or with only Luka Modric in 2018 interrupting their world domination.
Juventus have lacked a killer touch this season without their £100m signing while Barcelona are still a club in crisis after Messi’s failed bid to leave in the summer.
And the first meeting of the two best players in the world since Ronaldo left Real Madrid in 2018 would have been a huge occasion.
“Messi and Ronaldo have been doing extraordinary things for 15 years and are still at the top despite their advancing ages,” said Juventus coach Andrea Pirlo.
“Messi is still at the top and is part of the history of world football. I have faced him many times as a player and tomorrow for the first time as a coach.
“These players must be treated differently, hoping they are not at their best on the day. My players will certainly have to sacrifice themselves and play a great match.
“These are the sorts of games that everyone wants to be playing.”
Pirlo lost his last ever match as a player for Juventus against Barcelona in the 2015 UEFA Champions League final in Berlin.
“Everyone would like to play it again but it is part of the past and remains there,” he said.
Ronaldo’s case has caused a political storm in Italy with sports minister Vincenzo Spadafora insisting the player ‘violated the protocol’ by leaving the Juventus “bubble” to go on international duty after positive Covid cases at the Turin club.
The Portuguese, who has not displayed symptoms, returned to Italy by private jet and has been in self-isolation in his villa for the last fortnight.
Speaking earlier on Tuesday in the pre-match press conference, Pirlo said: “We are waiting for the result of the test and then we will decide what to do. It is not easy to play all the match after 15 days of inactivity.”
But stats show Juventus win 73% of Serie A matches with Ronaldo – and only 50% without him – while captain Giorgio Chiellini is out injured and Leonardo Bonucci and Matthijs de Ligt face late fitness tests.
Juventus are unbeaten under Pirlo, who took over from Maurizio Sarri in the summer, but sit in fifth place in Serie A.
But the weekend El Clasico defeat sees Barcelona down in 12th place in La Liga after three matches without a win as the civil war at the club rumbles on.
Gerard Pique blasted the club last week for the treatment of Messi – and the revelations that Barcelona had paid a PR company to discredit players during the summer row over salary reductions.
“Messi deserves everything; the new stadium should be named after him first and then the sponsor,” said the Spain defender. “We should preserve our figureheads, not under-appreciate them. It really gets to me.”